The Crowd and I

Zoe L (Year 11)

What does it mean to be human? To be a unique and complex individual in a sea of others similarly human, but vastly different in individuality. The Australian Chamber Orchestra explored this aspect of the human experience, by immersing us – the Year 9, 10 and 11 music students – in a synthesis of the aural and visual spheres.  

After a morning of singing and playing music together with boomwackers (a favourite instrument of Year 11 students and Kindergarteners alike), we travelled together by bus, metro, and train into Angel Place. Arriving an hour early at the City Recital Hall we students were entrusted with the freedom to roam the city before the show started. This resulted in fine dinging at the Bavarian, cake feasts next to the odd city sculptures, and a quick photo with “The Morrison” sign (just for Mr Morrison of course!). Upon our return we ventured up flights of stairs to the recital hall, bathed in warm lights, still instruments idle on an empty stage, an audience anticipating what they were about to experience.  

Over a decade in the making, Richard Togetti (artistic director) and Nigel Jamieson (director), collaborated with incredible cinematographer Jon Frank to create a fusion of music and film. With everything from the Black Lives Matter movement, the COVID-19 pandemic, the sparse expanses of the Tanami Desert, mosh pits at Coachella, and packed trains in Japan, ‘The Crowd and I’ challenges the joys and devastations of humanity, culture, and our impact on the planet. 

The Australian Chamber Orchestra ensemble, an expansion from their usual members, consisted of violins, violas, cellos, double bass, clarinets, flute, bassoon, trumpet, trombones, percussion, piano, electronic instruments, with the addition of 5 vocalists from The Song Company. This orchestral arrangement not only played sweeping sounds reminiscent of J.S. Bach, Chopin, and Beethoven, but also powerfully recreated the sounds of a mosh pit and a football game. These sounds “hovered between astonishingly beautiful and deeply disturbing” as they conveyed experiences of “the many and the one.” 

As we left the theatre, there was a buzzing energy of overwhelmed emotions and surpassed expectations. Walking back through the city to the train for our journey home, there was much discussion about our smallness compared to the city scape, our newness compared to the history of the place we were in, our fleetingness in a crowd of people we would never see again.  

“The mutability of human beings as social animals and as individuals is never more ambiguous than when in a crowd”  

– Fiona Kelly McGregor 

The musical experience we had engaged in, altered our perception of the world, as well as our outlook on music-making. Here are some thoughts from the music students about the day and what they learned from the concert: 

“The music excursion was a really exciting and challenging experience, and I’m so glad that we were able to be a part of it. Witnessing how compositions are designed to reflect not just a place or emotion but a story was really inspirational for my own work. I also loved having the freedom to roam around the city and eat cake.” – Abi FM (Year 11) 

“I enjoyed everything about the experience, from the cohesive storyline to the free roam around the city to bond with my fellow music classmates.” – Mason F (Year 11) 

“The experience was really fun and gave me an opportunity to consider what I can do with my future music making and skill development. It was cool to see how cohesive and well-flowing it was” – Tom B (Year 11)